Last year I visited a dear friend in Germany that I met about 5 years ago when we both were volunteering on a farm in Spain. Even though we lost contact for a couple of years she opened her house up with open arms, and we picked up right where we left off. During one of our many conversations during the trip, we started talking about all of her various jobs: teacher, coach, opera singer, and more. Yet even though she had a patch worked schedule of jobs she only worked about 15 hours a week.
This puzzled me, didn’t she want more money? Didn’t she want to try and work as much as possible? See, that had always been my route. Since I can remember I have been jamming my schedule full of jobs and activities- filling my days from sunrise to sunset. Yes, I had taken a couple of large trips traveling, but there had always been a deadline- a job to come back to.
However this summer, after a really tough experience teaching in Seattle, and a disappointing “you’re not the right job candidate at this time” email, I found myself in the middle of Mexico City scared and lost. Did I really want to live with my parents, trying to save over $3,000 a month, to maybe buy a house in two years in a place I wasn’t even sure I wanted to live? Did I really want to apply for a PhD program in Education if I wasn’t even sure I wanted to stay in education? Did I really want to continue working in an environment where I felt unsupported and sabotaged at every stage just because I was scared to lose the paycheck? What was I going to do? What did I want to do? For the first time in a long time I had not goals, no objective, no clearly defined “FINISH LINE HERE”.
For weeks I avoided thinking about the future throwing myself into Spanish Class and dance lessons when one day I was walking down the street and I remembered the answer my friend had given to my “Why don’t you work more?”
“Why?“, she had responded “I don’t need more. I have enough and I am happy.” Suddenly, 8 months later, those words hit me square in the chest. Maybe, just maybe, I didn’t have to work myself to the bone. Maybe, I might just be happier if I got off the rat race and started trying to live in the moment. I had been so focused on being the best, and living my best life that I hadn’t really considered what I thought “living my best life” really was.
Who are we kidding? This “spouse, 2 kids, dog, and a white picket house” is an outdated model. Most of us are riddled with student debit, and even if we weren’t, housing prices in most cities are way above what mid-to-late 20’s can afford. We want to listen to our parents as they often urge us to find stability, get ready for a family, but are we stopping to actually figure out what we want? The culture in the U.S. makes us feel like we’re going to miss out. That every opportunity is a “once-in-a-lifetime”. Yet where does that leave us? Struggling to make ends meet while feeling like it’s never good enough– we’re never good enough?
I have no idea what I’m doing. I still have no idea what I want to do. I don’t even know where I want to live, and even though I’m terrified that choosing to currently live the “vagabond life” will mean I’ll end up a lonely cat lady, but without the cats (thanks mom for those allergies), I’ve decided to, at least momentarily, remove myself from the rat race. First, I need to figure out where I want this race to end.